As promised, the alternative wireless carrier MetroPCS (NYSE:PCS, news, filings) beat its larger brethren to the punch and opened the nation's first commercial LTE network today in Las Vegas. By doing so, they leapfrog the 3G functionality they never developed, and move straight into the world of 4G. Not only did they get the network up and running, they debuted the first LTE phone, the Samsung Craft. What they didn't debut was a data card and plans for laptop access etc, as their network is initially aimed mainly at phones and at augmenting and eventually replacing their 2G CDMA network. Thus the customers they will be focusing on overlaps far less with Clearwire and Sprint than with the coming offerings from Verizon and AT&T.
That's because MetroPCS's LTE launch is not so much about oodles of bandwidth, since company has limited spectrum with which to make its move. In Las Vegas they deployed a 5MHz by 5MHz carrier, whereas Clearwire and Verizon are working with larger chunks. While Vegas is first, MetroPCS will be unveiling new markets over the next weeks and months, with LTE reaching its entire footprint sometime in 2011. As they build out, they expect to scale that spectrum usage down further in smaller markets, depending on what they have. In fact, they aren't really marketing a specific speed, as that will likely vary per market. I wonder if down the line they might be able to augment that via LightSquared, assuming that network gets built.
None of this is terribly surprising, MetroPCS has always been a no frills, no contract, flat rate alternative. Their 4G LTE plans continue in the same vein, and will establish that position in a new technological playing field ahead of the arrival of the bulk of its competition.
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